Space news in brief

Intelsat, Airbus, Boeing, SES, Embraer, Telebras

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SeoulIntelsat to extend life of satellite with Mission Extension Pod: Intelsat, operator of one of the world’s largest integrated satellite and terrestrial networks and leading provider of inflight connectivity (IFC), ordered a Mission Extension Pod (MEP) from Northrop Grumman Corporation’s SpaceLogistics, which will add life to an Intelsat satellite and provide uninterrupted services to many customers. The MEP “jet pack” will be installed by SpaceLogistics’ mission robotic vehicle (MRV) on an Intelsat satellite operating in geosynchronous orbit, ensuring continuity of satellite service for at least six years beginning in 2026. Intelsat has not identified which satellite will be serviced. Both MEP and MRV have completed critical design reviews, are in assembly and testing, and are proceeding toward launch. “Intelsat is committed to safe and sustainable stewardship of space,” said Intelsat Chief Technology Officer Bruno Fromont. “Intelsat successfully led the industry four years ago with the first In-orbit servicing of satellites in cooperation with Northrop Grumman. The new MEP will also ensure the Intelsat mission of providing the most reliable service to our customers.” This recent purchase continues Intelsat’s legacy of space sustainability first instituted in 2020 when SpaceLogistics’ Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-1) performed the first-ever in-orbit commercial spacecraft docking with Intelsat 901 (IS-901), extending its life for another five years. In 2021, a second Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-2) began providing similar life-extension services for Intelsat 10-02.

To Jupiter and beyond: Airbus-built JUICE begins its epic odyssey: JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) has spread its wings following the Ariane 5 successful lift-off. The ESA spacecraft operations team at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, took control of the spacecraft and confirmed reception of the first telemetry and the smooth deployment of the solar arrays. The Airbus-built JUICE is now officially on its way to Jupiter. Additional equipment and instruments will be progressively turned on in the next few days and the operations team will run tests to make sure they are all fully operational. “After years of work, watching this launch live from our sites across Europe was a very emotional moment for all those who have worked on this incredible mission. This is the best of Europe coming together!” said Michael Schöllhorn, CEO Airbus Defence and Space from Kourou. “I’m eager to see the next big thing coming from the European space community.” Bringing together 80 partners across 23 countries and harnessing the brainpower of 2,000+ people, Airbus has designed and built JUICE under contract to the European Space Agency (ESA). On its over 5 billion kilometre long journey, the 6.2 tonne JUICE spacecraft will make a series of flybys of Callisto, Ganymede and Europa, collecting data to try to understand whether there is any possibility that the moons and their subsurface oceans could host microbial life. Carrying 10 state-of-the-art scientific instruments, including cameras, spectrometers, an ice-penetrating radar, an altimeter, a radio-science experiment, a particle package and various magnetic and electric field sensors, the JUICE spacecraft will complete a unique 4-year tour of the Jupiter system. JUICE is due to arrive at Jupiter in 2031 after a series of gravity slingshots from Venus and Earth to propel it on its way.

Boeing delivers second pair of O3b mPOWER satellites to SES: Boeing delivered the third and fourth O3b mPOWER satellites to content connectivity service provider SES, with the duo embarking for Cape Canaveral, Florida. The pair will launch to medium Earth orbit (MEO) to provide fibre-like broadband connectivity to people around the world, joining the first two satellites on orbit. “As we get ready to launch the next pair of O3b mPOWER satellites in the coming weeks, we are excited to have them join the first two satellites which are currently undergoing rigorous testing as they arrive at their target medium earth orbit,” said Ruy Pinto, Chief Technology Officer at SES. “The early indications from our test program are that the O3b mPOWER system will more than fulfill the expectations of our customers. We will be delivering networks that offer the industry’s best throughput, high availability and predictable performance that are essential for our customers’ critical applications and creating new business opportunities for SES.” Boeing is contracted to deliver 11 O3b mPOWER satellites to SES, but just 6 satellites are needed in equatorial MEO to provide global connectivity services. The O3b mPOWER satellites are all-digital with a 702X software-driven payload, providing customers the flexibility and unique advantage to change services and markets to meet data demands. With seven more satellites in production, Boeing teams are introducing efficiencies into the manufacturing process. The team has reduced the bus module build time by more than 50 percent, and delivered similar efficiency improvements for payload integration and test, demonstrating the producibility benefits of the highly integrated 702X architecture. The first two O3b mPOWER satellites launched in December 2022. To learn more about O3b mPOWER, visit ses.com/O3b-mPOWER.

VCUB1, developed by Embraer JV, is launched in from U.S.: VCUB1, a satellite developed by Visiona, a joint venture between Embraer and Telebras, was launched in the U.S. from Vandenberg Launch Base. VCUB1 is the first Earth Observation and Data Collection satellite designed by the Brazilian industry and is expected to demonstrate the country’s industry ability to carry out advanced space missions. “The launch of VCUB1 is historic for the Brazilian aerospace industry because it places the country in a select group of nations that dominate the entire process of satellite development and enables us to fly even higher,” says João Paulo Campos, President of Visiona Tecnologia Espacial. “VCUB1 materialises a years-long effort to create a Brazilian space systems integrator company initiated with the SGDC programme.” The mission’s main objective is to validate the architecture of the satellite and its embedded software so that it can be used in larger satellites. Visiona has implemented and will test in VCUB1 all software that integrates the on-board computer, the brain of the satellite, including the AOCS – Attitude and Orbit Control System, unprecedented in the country, and the OBDH – On-Board Data Handling system, which allows the control of all components of the satellite. The company will also validate the satellite’s communication software, which is essential for the implementation of the final services and to ensure the security of communications and satellite control, a very important element for the country sovereignty in space. The mission will also allow the qualification in the space of the OPTO 3UCAM camera, the first reflective camera designed and produced in Brazil.


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